Photo/IllutrationHere's one way to serve up a salad with slices of chicken breast. (Yumi Kurita)

Breast is best when it comes to meals featuring chicken, collectively dubbed Dish of the Year 2017 by a research institute tracking social trends.

The accolade, awarded Dec. 4, was given to a category of meals rated as most reflecting the mood of society during the year.

The evaluation was made by Gurunavi Research Institute Inc., a subsidiary of a company that operates online restaurant directory services.

It noted that as Japan ages ever more rapidly, consumers are becoming more health conscious.

The meat was in the spotlight for its high protein and low fat content as well as for a natural substance that helps to combat fatigue.

Today, chicken breast often features in menus and salads, and also in precooked packages for salads sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

Dish of the Year candidates were first narrowed down on the basis of such factors as frequency of names of dishes searched on the restaurant directory for a place to eat them and a survey of eating habits by registered members of the web service.

The winner was selected by a panel of judges from media-related industries.

As chicken breast is lean, it tends to become firm and dry when cooked, unlike cuts from the thigh. For a long time, it was not considered the best part of the chicken.

But recent innovations in cooking methods led to a widespread recognition that chicken breast can remain soft and moist if cooked at low temperature. Another way to keep the texture tender is to marinate the meat in a mixture of salt and "koji" rice malt seasoning.